Renewables

Maine Lawmakers Back Transmission Project for Renewable Energy

A project to build more than 100 miles of transmission lines, along with multiple substations, to enable the use of more renewable energy in Maine has received support from state lawmakers. LS Power Grid Maine, a subsidiary of New York-headquartered LS Power, on June 26 said the Aroostook Renewable Gateway effort has received the first of several approvals needed to move forward.

Maine Gov. Janet Mills on June 22 signed Legislative Document 924 (L.D. 924) as a first step in the approval process. Officials said the Aroostook project will connect renewable energy resources in Aroostook County in northern Maine to the electric grid operated by ISO New England, the independent system operator that serves six states in the U.S. Northeast.

Aroostook County, about 150 miles north of Bangor, Maine, borders the Canadian province of New Brunswick.

Legislators’ support for the LS Power project comes about one month after the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) lifted its suspension of construction of New England Clean Energy Connect, a 145-mile transmission project in the state to bring hydropower from Quebec in Canada to the regional power grid. The project, developed by Avangrid, has been on hold since voters in a 2021 referendum opposed the construction, prompting the DEP’s action.

The DEP lifted the suspension, though, after Avangrid challenged the referendum’s legality and a jury in April of this year said the group has a legal right to finish construction.

Bipartisan Support

“LS Power is grateful for the leadership of Senate President Troy Jackson and Senate Republican Leader Trey Stewart for sponsoring L.D. 924 and their bipartisan efforts and support that led to the successful passage of this important bill,” said Paul Thessen, president of LS Power Development. “I would like to thank Governor Mills for signing this legislation and appreciate her continued support as we advance this important project. The Aroostook Renewable Gateway will allow us to deliver cost-effective, renewable energy from Aroostook County to Maine and the regional power grid.”

The Maine project is the latest for LS Power, which since 1990 has developed, built, and managed more than 47 GW of power generation projects, both thermal and renewable. The group has developed and operates more than 680 miles of high-voltage electricity transmission, and has another 200-plus miles of power infrastructure, including substations, under construction.

The Aroostook line will feature more than 100 miles of new 345-kV transmission lines and substations to aid Maine’s development of renewable energy. Government data shows about 75% of the state’s electricity comes from renewables, mostly hydro and wind power. There were 51 licensed hydroelectric plants in the state last year, with more than 720 MW of generation capacity.

Wind and Biomass

Wind power provides about one-quarter of the state’s electricity, and is responsible for about two-thirds of all wind-powered generation in New England, with more than 1 GW of installed capacity. The state also gets about 20% of its electricity from burning biomass, mostly wood and wood pellets from the state’s abundant forest lands.

Maine has a handful of operating natural-gas fired power plants, providing about 25% of the state’s electricity. Maine has no operating coal-fired power plants.

“The legislature’s bipartisan approval is a major step towards ensuring Maine meets its ambitious renewable energy and climate goals in a cost-conscious manner while realizing economic benefits for the state,” said Thessen. State officials in 2019 set a goal of having 80% of electricity retail sales from renewable energy resources by 2030, with a goal for the state to use 100% renewable electricity by 2050.

LS Power in Monday’s announcement said the specific siting of the transmission lines and substations will occur after a stakeholder engagement process. The group said community open houses would be held later this year. The application for the final siting will need approval from the Maine Public Utilities Commission.

“We look forward to implementing this industry-leading grid infrastructure in close collaboration with Maine’s local and state regulatory agencies, local communities, and other stakeholders,” said Doug Mulvey, vice president, LS Power Development. “We are excited to be part of building Maine’s renewable energy future.”

Darrell Proctor is a senior associate editor for POWER (@POWERmagazine).

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